International sailing body clears air over Israel’s absence in Langkawi meet

File photo of Israeli windsurfer Noy Drihan. — Picture courtesy of The Jerusalem Post
File photo of Israeli windsurfer Noy Drihan. — Picture courtesy of The Jerusalem Post

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 26 — The international body overseeing the sailing sport sought today to address the controversy over Israel’s withdrawal from tomorrow’s world windsurfing championship in Langkawi, saying that after negotiations, the Malaysian authorities agreed to allow the entry of the nation’s athletes and coaches but with conditions.

In a statement, World Sailing, formerly known as the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), said it was aware of recent news articles on the matter, which has sparked a firestorm of protests on social media.

“World Sailing has been in liaison with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Malaysian Olympic Committee, the Israel Sailing Federation and the Organising Authority of the 2015 Youth Sailing World Championships to grant Israeli sailors and coaches entry into Malaysia for the event,” it said of the event that will kick off tomorrow.

World Sailing said Malaysia granted conditional entry to the Israeli sailors to which representatives from the Middle Eastern nation responded by saying that its athletes would not join the Langkawi event.

“Israeli sailors were granted entry by the Malaysian Authorities under certain conditions that competitors sailing in Langkawi have to adhere to.

“World Sailing were informed on 24 December by the Israeli Sailing Federation of their decision not to send representatives in the Boys and Girls windsurfing events in Langkawi,” the recently rebranded global body said in a brief statement on its website today.

In the same statement, World Sailing did not comment on a reported threat of lawsuit by the Israel Sailing Association and did not elaborate on the conditions that Malaysia had sought to impose on the athletes.

On December 23, The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli champion windsurfers Yoav Omer and Noy Drihan would not be able to participate at the sailing tournament in Langkawi to defend their titles, as they had not been granted their visas by Malaysia.

According to The Jerusalem Post, Israel Sailing Association chairman Gili Amir said that Israel’s decision to stay away from the tournament was due to Malaysia’s “unacceptable” demands.

Gili claimed Omer and Drihan would not be allowed to compete under the Israeli flag, nor would they be allowed to wear any symbol to identify them as Israeli, or even have their national anthem played if they should win the gold medal, as is customary.

He reportedly added that the association is considering a joint lawsuit with the Olympic Committee of Israel against Malaysia and the International Sailing Federation (ISAF).

In the annual championships open to those aged 19 and under from around the world, Omer previously won the gold for the boys Under-19 category and Drihan won the Under-17 and Under-19 events in the championships held in Gdynia, Poland last year.

The 45the edition of the ISAF Youth Sailing World Championship runs from December 27 to January 3, 2016.

When contacted for comment yesterday, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin told Malay Mail Online that Malaysia accepts Israel’s withdrawal, and that the country was guided by its existing diplomatic policy.

Malaysia and Israel do not have diplomatic ties.

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